Greece: Unity put to the test in Macedonia row

Greece is still on tenterhooks over the agreed solution to its name dispute with Macedonia. After Prime Minister Tsipras won a confidence vote last week, tens of thousands took to the street on Sunday to demonstrate against the agreement between Athens and its neighbour to the north. The deal is to be put to vote in parliament on Thursday. The Greek press blames various camps for the polarisation.

Open/close all quotes
Avgi (GR) /

Nea Dimokratia fishing in far-right waters

According to media reports Greece's biggest opposition party, the conservative Nea Dimokratia, is considering bringing a motion of censure to prevent the vote on Thursday. The pro-government paper Avgi condemns the initiative:

“It's clear: Nea Dimokratia wants to avoid any real argument over the deal. Its idea is to fish in the murky waters of the far right and neo-fascism. ... Naive citizens will ask: what's the point of a motion of censure? The government won a vote of confidence not long ago. Nevertheless it does make sense: Nea Dimokratia wants the debate in parliament to last until the weekend so that the [far-right] 'battalions' can reassemble.”

To Vima (GR) /

Tsipras jeopardising social peace

In view of the clashes between demonstrators and police resulting in dozens of wounded, the English version of To Vima Online describes Tsipras and his government as dangerous opportunists:

“Tsipras revived on different terms an extremely deep polarisation in Greek society and in the political landscape. ... Protesters are labelled as extreme right-wing. The tear gas that the PM would have banned overnight is being used extensively. ... Unfortunately, we are seeing a repetition of the situation in the first years of the bailout memorandums with the government this time fuelling populism, opportunistic demagoguery, and the collapse of all ethical and ideological limits.” (GR) /

Tsipras didn't seek consensus

Tsipras will pay for his stance, columnist Kostas Giannakidis stresses in Protagon:

“What has the prime minister done to reach a consensus on the name issue? Nothing. He talked about nationalists and disregarded the conscience and anger of thousands of compatriots. But he will pay the price for this at the polls. ... I have several friends, who came all the way from Thessaloniki for the demonstration. None of them are right-wing extremists. ... They see the sun of Vergina [which is claimed as a symbol in both the Greek region of Macedonia and in the country of Macedonia] and react emotionally as they were taught to do from an early age. This was considered nationally correct until last year. But this year the government suddenly says it's harmful.”

Kathimerini (GR) /

Like uncontrollable Dobermanns

Columnist Alexis Papachelas warns in Kathimerini that the rifts in Greek society could grow:

“Syriza and Independent Greeks (Anel) [the coalition partner with whom it quarrelled over the name issue] invested in hatred and division. ... I already see important people getting overly passionate and acting like uncontrollable Dobermanns in the public debate. ... The Prespes deal has divided the Greek people. We all have an opinion about whether it is good or bad for the nation. The trolls, however, are talking about fascists and traitors, further fanning the flames of division among a people that is already divided. It is very important to keep division at bay – and responsibility for this lies mainly with our politicians.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Neighbours as enemies

The Standard sees parallels between the heated mood in Greece and other countries, and therefore finds Tsipras's conduct all the more commendable:

“As in all other Balkan countries, in Greece too nationalism is charging the general mood far more than the question of whether one has enough to live on despite the austerity policy, or how polluted the air is. ... Neighbours are cast as enemies, as if they could jeopardise one's own - apparently unstable - identity. One reason for this is the widespread trend in south-eastern Europe of thinking in collectives rather than as individuals. Tsipras was truly brave in pushing for a more sensible approach in politics through the reconciliation with Skopje.”

El País (ES) /

A left-winger who knows how to act responsibly

El País also praises the Greek prime minister:

“He successfully negotiated a bailout package that he didn't like by complementing it with a social programme. In this way he was able to influence Europe's financial policy, making it more expansive. He also demonstrated European spirit on the two other major issues of his mandate: in the deal with Macedonia he showed the willingness to compromise and the pacifism and supranationalism that are typical of the EU. And the assumption of responsibility in the face of the wave of migrants also testifies to that spirit. In this way Tsipras's far leftism has adapted to radical social democracy. And his Europeanism has bridged the gap that separates the left from left-wing populism - unlike that which separates the right from the far right.”

To Vima (GR) /

The spectre of division is back

To Vima Online observes with concern a broken society:

“The vote in parliament has solved the problem of the government's legitimacy for the time being. ... But the country's political problem has not been resolved. The radical political conflict we have seen clearly shows what will happen in the next few weeks or months before the elections. ... A climate of division permeates a major section of society. ... Instead of discussing how the country, the economy and society can recover from the nightmare of the crisis, we see how the same tensions that impeded our escape from the quagmire of the economic crisis are returning.”